i'm a relative newbie here (well, i've been reading posts on this site for a couple of years now, but just got up the nerve to start to post).
the abridged version of my story -- i don't want to bore you all:
with the exception of the orthodontist, my mother took me to the dentist less than a half dozen times during my childhood. each time was awful -- just cleanings, but they were so painful, seemed to last forever, gagged from the x-rays and fluoride, dentist was creepy, sore for weeks after. as an adult, i swore i would never go to the dentist. at 21 yrs old (no dentist for 4 yrs prior), coworker shamed me into going to the dentist and recommended hers. dentist was very nice, had my first filling (had a panic attack on my way there), dentist got cancer and left the practice for a few years. at 29 yrs old, i moved 2 hrs away and another coworker guilted me into going to the dentist and recommended his. this time, it had been 6yrs since going to a dentist. i remember sitting in a stairwell at work calling to make the appointment. i was so terrified i can't believe i even got the words out. i knew my teeth were bad as the back ones were visibly rotted. went for a cleaning and dentist wasn't there to do the exam b/c he had to leave for an emergency. went back the following week -- my grandmother passed away the same day, but i have horrible anticipatory anxiety and the thought of having to wait again was just horrible. dentist was really nice, i needed a lot of fillings and that he would do them in 4 visits. i also needed to have my wisdom teeth out -- terrifying -- i had been avoiding this since i was a teenager. huge fear of needles, but dentist was able to talk me through it. wisdom teeth removal was really bad and really painful -- done by an oral surgeon who didn't believe me when i told her i was not numb. i was just started to be less fearful, but was sent back to square one. 33yrs old, one of the large fillings i got at 29 had decay underneath. dentist attempted a crown, but after crown prep i was in agony for 2 weeks. had to have rct -- i have had trouble getting numb and was convinced that i would never be numb enough for this. endodontist said he had 'special tricks' -- he was right -- felt nothing.
fast forward -- i'm now 34. i have no specific fears about going to the dentist and really trust my dentist. i have no fearful thoughts. despite this, i have an appt for a cleaning in just over 6 weeks and i'm back visiting this forum because i have overwhelming, nearly constant anxiety about my upcoming appointment. i'm not sleeping well and the anxiety (and lack of sleep) is making me quite irritable which affects my work. i'm also phobic of medications (particularly addictive ones -- i have a significant family history of substance abuse) so i don't take benzos (though, my dentist at times has strongly encouraged this). i want to thank everyone on this forum for all of your posts because reading your stories is the only thing that has been getting me through my days. my friends know that i am fearful of the dentist, but i don't think that anyone who hasn't experienced this can truly understand what this is like. in all other aspects of my life i am a highly functional, 'normal' person an i'm often the person that my friends turn to for support -- i just think it's hard for them to understand how i can be so debilitated by this fear.
does anyone else have anxiety like this -- totally unrelated to any specific fears or thoughts about the dentist? i'm glad that i am finally at a point where i have getting regular dental care -- i have never in my life (prior to this) had 4 years of regular dental care -- but having such intense anxiety for so long prior to each visit takes so much out of me. i have so many other things to focus on between now and when my appt is, i can't afford to be devoting so much emotional energy to managing my anxiety about my dental appt.
thank you all again! sorry this post is so long -- much longer than i had planned. any words of support would be appreciated.